Lufthansa pilots onboard WLAN service

Lufthansa has begun a three-month trial for a new onboard wireless broadband service that allows travellers to connect to the...

Lufthansa has begun a three-month trial for a new onboard wireless broadband service that allows travellers to connect to the Internet some 10,000m in the sky.

The German airline is the first in the world to provide a high-speed WLAN (wireless LAN) service during a scheduled flight.

Since July 2001, Lufthansa is working with Connexion by Boeing to provide the satellite-based onboard data communications service, called FlyNet.

Lufthansa is partnering with Vodafone to provide WLAN services in 55 airport lounges around the globe. The lounge service will be available in March.

Lufthansa's new airborne WLAN service will be available for free to all passengers on flights between Frankfurt and Washington DC, until 15 April.

From next year, the service will cost between €30 (£19) and €35 (£23) per flight. Passengers can use bonus miles as part of Lufthansa's Miles&More frequent flyer programme to pay for the service.

Users will be able to download from the Internet at speeds up to 3Mbps and upload at speeds up to 128Kbps. The upload speeds will later increase to 750Kbps.

Lufthansa has lined up several large companies, such as BASF, Siemens and Software, to take part in the pilot service and test access to their own corporate intranets and mail servers via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection.

Cisco Systems is providing technology for the onboard 802.11b based network, which offers wireless connectivity throughout all cabins, in addition to wireline connectivity via an Ethernet connector in the passenger seats.

Five Cisco Aironet 350 series access points have been fitted throughout the plane, along with one Cisco 3640 router and nine Cisco Catalyst 3548 XL series switches. Cisco's equipment has been modified, tested and certified by Lufthansa to meet civil aviation regulations.

Users can connect any standard notebook to the onboard network via an Ethernet network cable. During the pilot programme, several notebook computers from Fujitsu Siemens Computers, equipped with WLAN cards, will be available on board to use for free.

The FlyNet portal, which was developed together with German content provider Tomorrow-Focus, provides a range of current information, including financial, travel and lifestyle news, as well as information from Lufthansa.

By mid-2004, Lufthansa plans to introduce FlyNet throughout its long-range fleet consisting of 80 aircraft.

Connexion by Boeing faces competition from other companies, including Tenzing Communications and Verizon Communications, which are pushing their own narrowband onboard systems. However, neither has yet to launch a more advanced broadband service.

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